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How Can We Know if Something Is Sin?

Keys for Knowing What Is Sin When the Bible is Not Clear

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How Can We Know if Something is Sin?
Photo: Andy Sotiriou / Getty Images

Many sins are spelled out plainly in the Bible. For example, the Ten Commandments give us a clear picture of God's laws. They offer basic rules of behavior for spiritual and moral living. Many other verses in the Bible present direct examples of sin:

Proverbs 6:16-19
There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (NIV)

Galatians 5:19-21
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

But how do we decide if something is sin when the Bible is not clear?

The Bible presents general guidelines to help us judge sin when we are uncertain. Romans 14 is a great place to start. I've written this article on what to do when the Bible is not clear, based on Romans chapter 14:

What Do I Do When the Bible is Not Clear?

Usually when we're in doubt over sin, our first tendency is to ask if something is bad or wrong. I'd like to suggest thinking in the opposite direction. Instead, when you're trying to determine if something is sin, ask yourself these questions based on Scripture:

  1. Is this a good thing for me and others? Is this beneficial? Will it draw me closer to God? Will it strengthen my faith and my witness? (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
  2. The next great question to ask is, will this glorify God? Will God bless this thing and use it for his purposes? Will this be pleasing and honoring to God? (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
  3. You can also ask, how will this thing affect my family and friends? Although we may have freedom in Christ in an area, we are never to let our freedom cause a weaker brother to stumble. (Romans 14:21; Romans 15:1) In addition, since the Bible teaches us to submit to those in authority over us (parents, a spouse, a teacher), we can ask, do my parents have a problem with this thing? Am I willing to submit this to those in leadership over me?
  4. Finally, in all things, we are to let our conscience before God convict us of what is right and wrong on matters that are not clear in the Bible. We can ask, do I have freedom in Christ and a clear conscience before the Lord to do whatever is in question? Are my own desire's submitted to the Lord's will? (Colossians 3:17; Romans 14:23)

More Answers to Questions About Sin

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